Make Your CV Work for You

Posted June 24, 2015 by
CV icon isolated on white background

CV icon isolated on white background. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you have applied for a position and have been asked to submit a CV, you might be asking, “What is a curriculum vitae?” In the past, you only submitted resumes, so you are in for a new experience, and one that may take quite a bit of time and reflection. Hopefully, what follows will give you some good insight into CV writing and some of the things that you can do to make yours stand out.

Curriculum Vitae Definition: You can think of a curriculum vitae as having the same purpose as a resume. It is, above all else, a marketing document, and the product being marketed is you. You will be presenting your educational, professional, and employment backgrounds, as well as a number of other career-related information that makes you the best candidate for an open position for which you believe you are qualified.

There are three major differences between CV’s and resumes.

1. While resumes often highlight employment experience in some type of chronological order, CV’s focus on types of experience that fall more into categories rather than time frames.
2. While resumes must be ideally confined to one page, CV’s are quite lengthy and include a great deal of detail about all aspects of one’s professional life.
3. CV’s are submitted for very specific categories of positions – medicine, scientific research, higher education, and occasionally for lead positions with non-profit organizations and foundations.

That said, here are the typical things, in a rather standard order, that you will want to include in your CV. Later, we’ll talk about how to make yours “pop” a bit. Also you should know that there are several surefire ways to make your CV unreal.

Standard Order of Information: There are several different online templates that you can use to produce your CV, and you will want to look at those to see which will best fit the position for which you are applying. You may also want to use a different template for another type of position.

1. Personal Information – Include name, address, and contact information. Be certain to include your title and /or credentials (e.g. John Smith, Ph.D.; Harvey Johnson, M.D.).

2. Educational Background: Be certain to include all of your degrees, beginning with the most recent; it is important as well to list all majors and minor fields of study.

3. Professional Certifications and/or Licenses: If you are licensed to practice medicine state where and since when; if you have specific psychological, educational, sociological, etc. certifications, provide all detail as well.

4. Academic Teaching Experience: This is important for many positions, such as higher education teaching and some research fields. Be specific about institutions, courses taught, and years. Obviously, this is not included if you have no teaching experience. (Note: you may want to speak to your evaluations while teaching, if they were superior. In some instances, you may want to include copies of those evaluations in an appendix.

5. Research Experience: You may begin with your dissertation research if it was significant. And all research positions must include the institution/organization, the specific projects on which you worked, and the dates.

6. Other Related Work Experience – only if it is related to the position for which you are applying.

7. Professional Development: Here you will want to include the major activities only – a sabbatical, a major seminar, etc.

8. Scholarly and/or Research Publications: Include journal articles, books, papers you presented, and any work that is still in progress but not yet published. Be sure to collect all of them during your study – it is one of the most crucial rules of the successful student.

9. Grants: If you were awarded specific grants for research or other undertakings, specify the time frames and the amounts awarded, along with details of the research or other activities

10. Professional Organization Memberships: These are important if they relate to the position opening, and be certain to include any leadership roles you had.

11. Professional Service Activities: If you have engaged in service/volunteer activities related to your career, include them and provide detail.

12. References: Always include references at the end of a CV

How to Write a Curriculum Vitae that Will Be Unique

Unfortunately, CV’s are rather “dry” documents, and you are expected to use scholarly prose. There are a few things you can do, however, that may give yours more than the normal 30-second perusal.

1. Have a small photograph of yourself printed in the upper right hand corner.

2. Choose a high quality paper that either has a classy imprinted border or put a border on yourself. You may use some contrasting colors as long as they are not gaudy. A cream paper with a deep maroon border, for example, keeps it subdued but visually appealing. You might also try a gray paper with a navy border.

3. Heading and Sub-headings: Use the same color you used on your border for a better visual impact.

4. Don’t be afraid to use bold, italics and underlining.

5. Bullet points used to be “forbidden” on a CV. That has changed now, and skillful use of bullet points will draw the reader’s eyes and make it easier for him/her to “see” things at a glance.

6. Graphics: Unfortunately, you can’t get as creative as resume designers can. But you can use geometric lines to separate headings, and these will be more “interesting” to a reader. Try a straight line that dips into a “V at the right margin.

Of course, the CV is only the first step. You will also need to prepare for that eventual interview (have a look on this most common rejection review), and it would be wise to get some tips on interview strategies while you are preparing that CV.

Author bio: Andy Preisler is a professional blogger and marketer from GrabMyEssay dealing with various types of writings. He intends to help students in mastering their career path. Andy’s passion is sharing his knowledge and self-growth. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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